People who suffer from allergies to different products and substances, called allergens, experience a variety of allergic symptoms. Allergic symptoms differ based on the severity of a person’s allergies. Allergens cause reactions that may range from mild irritation to death.
One of the most common allergic symptoms is a rash or skin irritation. Rashes may occur in the contact area of an allergen, such as where the body rubbed against a specific plant or substance or was stung by an insect. Severe allergic symptoms often produce rashes that spread throughout the body. Similarly, rashes caused by food allergies can appear almost anywhere on the body. In addition to rashes, hives are another type of skin irritation that may also appear as an allergic symptom.
Itchy and watery eyes are a common allergic symptom in the case of hayfever and animal allergies. Itchy and watery eyes are considered a mild allergic reaction and don’t necessarily require direct contact with an allergen. For example, someone who is allergic to cats may experience itchy and watery eyes by just entering a room where a cat has been or is present. In other cases, a person may pet an animal and inadvertently rub their eyes, creating or intensifying the allergic reaction.
In addition to rashes, hives and itching, food allergies may cause gastro-intestinal distress such as cramping, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Gastro-intestinal symptoms of a food allergy may sometimes be confused with food intolerance. Time is the largest distinguishing factor between the two conditions. A gastro-intestinal allergic reaction may occur within minutes and can take hours or days to go away.
In contrast, food intolerance occurs over days or weeks and is not a reaction. Instead, food intolerance is the inability of the body to process a specific food caused by a lack of enzymes. For example, someone who is lactose intolerant is not allergic to dairy products, but lacks the proper amount of lactase, the enzyme needed to metabolize dairy products.
The most serious allergic reactions cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis causes a variety of life-threatening allergic symptoms which may lead to death. Constriction of the airways is the most serious allergic symptom caused by anaphylaxis. This constriction makes it hard to breathe and may lead to dizziness or loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis may also lead to abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea.
Additionally, anaphylaxis may cause the throat to swell and a rapid pulse rate. In serious cases, anaphylaxis may cause shock with a severe drop in blood pressure. When all of these symptoms occur simultaneously and remain untreated, the result may be a coma or death.